As food and beverage becomes a more significant revenue driver for hotels, many boutique and lifestyle owners seek to invest in unique restaurant, bar, and café concepts that will resonate with both guests and locals. “Despite great ideas, concepts, and design, where the rubber meets the road is in the execution,” advised Jody Pennette, CEO of cb5 Hospitality, during a panel discussion at the Boutique & Lifestyle Association’s Boutique Hotel Investment Conference in New York City last week. The panel of experts shared the following tips for enhancing profitability through food and beverage operations.
Don’t overdo the design. “You can still have excitement without the boldness we’ve seen,” suggested Dayna Lee, principal at Powerstrip Design. “Toning it down doesn’t mean it becomes less expensive to do, it’s just that the choices you make are delicate. There is a tendency to see tiny little details and to notice the tiny bits of jewelry, and those bits of jewelry are very high quality.”
Keep the local neighborhood in mind. “We address the community and what they would like and what they’re going to react to, because our guest is looking for an incredible hotel with a restaurant adjacent to it that’s filled with people who live in that area,” explained Alex Taylor, senior vice president of restaurants and bars for Kimpton. “That’s the experience they want, so it makes it easy for us to stay focused and stay centered on what we want to accomplish.”
Avoid clichés when creating a brand identity. “If you go to New Orleans and do another Creole restaurant, it’s like, so what,” said Brad Wilson, CEO of Ace Hotels. “You might call that localizing, but it’s not necessarily. It’s the same as painting a trombone on the side of the building, and you’re a jazz hotel now. It’s more about understanding how locals eat. Don’t do a New York-ish noisy restaurant with small portions in Chicago. That’s death.”
Hire the right people. “That’s going to be the differentiating factor between a great bar and restaurant and one that’s not so great,” said Scott Gerber, principal and CEO of Gerber Group. “You have to have great food, but if you don’t have a great staff, you’re not going to have a great business.”
View the restaurant as an extension of the hotel’s DNA. “If someone has a bad meal in a hotel restaurant, the hotel will get the black eye,” Pennette warned. “So it’s very important that it’s connected.”
Pay attention to social media. “Social media has had a ton of impact on the way we market our brands and the way our customers market for us,” Gerber explained. “You can’t get away from the Instagrams, the Snapchats, and the Twitters. Whether you want to believe that stuff or not, you have to pay attention to it because it’s going to impact what you’re doing everyday.”
Offer the whole package. “You have to have a full experience,” Wilson said. “You can’t just have a great chef, you also need a great room, a great design, and great service.”